NA passes 31st Constitutional Amendment Bill, bringing FATA into mainstream

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ISLAMABAD, May 24 (APP):The much-awaited the Constitution (Thirty-First Amendment) Bill, 2018, formally known
as the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) Reforms Bill, finally sailed through
the National Assembly on Thursday, amid opposition by government allied parties
Jamiat-e-ulema-Islam (JUI-F) and Pashtoonkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP).
A total of 229 members cast their votes in favour of the bill while one
opposed it.
The bill aimed at integrating the Provincially Administered Tribal Areas
(PATA) with the respective provinces and the Federally Administrated Tribal
Areas (FATA) with the province of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and bringing the people
of tribal areas in the main stream.
Minister of Law and Justice Chaudhary Mahmood Bashir Virk piloted the
bill further to amend the Constitution [The Constitution (Thirsty-first Amendment)
Bill, 2018] in the House.
Amendments in seven articles of the Constitution were proposed under the
bill. In the article 1 of the Constitution which defines the territories of Pakistan, it
seeks to omit the paragraph “C” of sub-clause-2 of the article-1 under which FATA
is placed as separate territory of the country like the four provinces. After the “C”
omission, the federally administered tribal areas shall form part of the territory of
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
It also seeks to amend the clause-1 of the Article-51 which defines the number
of seats in the National Assembly as three hundred and forty-two. The draft bill seeks
to reduce the number of seats from 342 to 326 and also replaces the table which
gives the seats division between provinces and federal capital, given in the
clause-3 with a new one with total 326 seats.
It adds a new clause called “3A” after the clause 3 to give legal cover to the
representatives who will be elected from FATA in general polls 2018. They will
continue as member of the national assembly till dissolution of the National
Assembly and thereafter this clause shall stand omitted.
It removes the word “Federally Administered Tribal Areas,” from the
clause-5 under which seats of the national assembly are allocated on
population bases.
The bill also seeks changes in the Article-59 which deals with Senate. It
reduces the number of Senate members from 104 to 96. It omits the sub-clause
(b) of the clause-1 of the Article-59 which gives 8 members to FATA thus FATA
members will be deleted.
It also delete the sub-clause (b) of the clause-3 of the same article which
states that 4 of the Senators elected from FATA shall retire after three years and
4 four after next three years.
Under Amendment to Article 106 of the Constitution, new clauses (1 A) and
1 (B) are inserted which deals with number of seats of FATA in the KP provincial
assembly. Out of total 21 seats, 16 seats will be for general, four for women and
one for non-Muslim. However, elections to the aforesaid seats shall be held within
one year after the General Election, 2018.
The Articles-246 which deals with tribal areas, the clause “C” which defines
and names the federally administered tribal areas is omitted. Furthermore, a new
clause “d” is inserted which states that the laws applicable in these areas will
remain applicable until repealed or changed by competent authority.
Meanwhile, the bill also seeks to omit the Article 247 of the Constitution.
Earlier, opposing the bill, Naeema Kishwar Khan of JUI-F regretted that neither
rules nor procedures were being followed to bring the FATA reforms bill in the
House.
She said that JUI-F also wanted reforms in FATA but the process
should not be done in haste. She was of the view that any decision about
FATA should be done by its people.
Bilal-ur-Rehman from Aurakzai Agency said that the people of
FATA did not want merger and termed , when this bill is being passed,
as black day. He said that FATA should be given status of a province
or council as the merger would be injustice with the people.
Dawar Kundi of PTI said that the FATA Jirga had opposed this
FATA reform bill, adding that the merger was against the spirit of
Federation. He said “We should encourage formation of more
administrative units instead of merging the existing ones.”
Jamal-ud-Din of JUI-F said that the government has failed to
fulfill its promises it had made with the people, adding the bill which
is being introduced, is not beneficial for the people of FATA.
He said that people of FATA should be asked what they wanted
and warned that if any decision was taken against their will, it would
not be in the country’s interest.
Naseema Hafeez of PkMAP condemned the bill and demanded
that people of FATA should be asked what they want while Shahida
Akhtar Ali of JUI-F said that the people of FATA should be given right
to self-determination to decide whether they were in favour of merger
or not.
Abdul Qahar Wadan of PkMAP demanded that FATA people should
be asked what they want. He was of the view that it was not in jurisdiction
of the parliament to decide about the FATA’s merger, rather the powers
were with the President of the country to conduct referendum in FATA
and let the people decide what they want.
Shah Jee Gul Afridi said that FATA Reforms was the part of National
Action Plan (NAP) which was signed by the JUI-F and PkMAP and now they
were reneging from their promises.
Jamaat-e-Islami Parliamentary Leader Sahibzada Tariq Ullah said that
FATA Reforms was good effort of the government but now it should not delay
to present in the House.
Vice President PTI Shah Mahmood Qureshi said that it was historic day
in the country history and all the political parties should work for the national
interest above their political differences.